We had a short stay of only two days in Kolkata, India. We stayed at the MCC Guest House with the MCC Reps serving as our hosts. We walked to the “flower market” our first morning. We walked through small streets in the early morning as vendors were setting up their wares. We stopped at an old Armenian Church. The original wooden church was built in 1688 but burned down; the present structure was built in 1724. The church and its grounds reminded us of the Armenian Church in Old Dhaka. Flowers arrive in the morning and vendors buy and take to sell in other parts of the city. Flowers are used in many aspects in the Hindu religion. We stopped by the Hooghly River which is a branch of the Ganges through this part of India. Crossing the river at this point is the Howrah Bridge, the third longest cantilever bridge in the world. Across the river is a huge train station. We brought a tram back to the Guest House.
We had a good walk in the Botanical Gardens. The main attraction is a mammoth banyan tree thought to be at least 250 years old. The main trunk rotted away in 1925 but it continues to live with its aerial roots. When the trunk was removed it was 50 feet in circumference. The present canopy occupies more than 1500 feet in circumference. It is huge! We also saw the giant water lily pads—like we saw in Chiang Mai. They can be up to 1 feet in diameter.
We attended St James Church Sunday morning, a high Anglican service. Afterwards we visited St Mother Teresa’s Mother House. We visited the museum and her final resting spot.
We roamed the Victoria Memorial. The grounds are well-cared for “colonial British” gardens. The marble monument was completed in 1921. We could only visit the first floor and photos were not allowed inside. There is a large gallery of oil paintings and watercolors from the 19th century illustrating the lives and time period of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The other half of the museum tells the history of Kolkata from mid 1600’s to the partition of India in 1947 and on through to the 1970s. A fascinating collection but far too much information to retain! There was even a life-size diorama of a street in Kolkata in the late 1800s.
We stopped in at St Paul’s, the Mother Church of the diocese of Kolkata in the Church of North India. The architecture was very different than we normally see.
In the evening we visited Birla Mandir, a Hindu temple built of marble in the late 20th century by an industrialist family. Again no photos but a fascinating temple and especially beautiful at night when it is lit up. Inside are statues to several of the deities – Krishna, Radha, Durga, Shakti, and Shiva. There were many people paying their respects and/or just enjoying the site.